Hot Seat: The Bubba edition

By Randall MellApril 10, 2012, 4:40 pm

Loosen your collars, folks, it’s Bubba hot in this space this week.

Welcome back to golf’s Hot Seat, where we have a special Bubba Watson edition. It’s all about Bubba. Here’s our special heat index:

Bubba hot – RBC Heritage tournament officials

Where’s Bubba?

With Bubba Watson the hottest commodity in golf, we’re all waiting to see what he does next. Or says next. The quirky left-hander with the big swing and the bigger imagination rocketed to another level of stardom with his Masters’ victory.

Watson isn’t in this week’s field at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town in Hilton Head, S.C., but he will be the talk there all week long. World No. 1 Luke Donald is there, but he will be overshadowed by the buzz over ‘Bubba golf.’ It’s a phenomenon and every tournament will want to be host to it now. A tournament with Bubba in it is more interesting, more fun, more crazily unpredictable.

Southpaw fever – Phil Mickelson

With one mighty world-rankings leap, Watson isn’t just the top-ranked American in the game. He’s now the top-ranked left-hander in the world.

At No. 4, Watson is five spots ahead of Mickelson, who has held top lefty honors forever, it seems.

With his creative flair, Watson rivals Mickelson in a lot of ways as a shot-maker. A southpaw showdown between these two might initiate the most colorful new rivalry the game could offer, but we’re a long way from that. Mickelson and Watson won’t likely tee it up in the same event again until the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C., in three weeks.

Bubba Fever – Steve Elkington

Watson got teary eyed on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” a few times Tuesday in his surprise live appearance, including when he talked about getting a salute from Steve Elkington in a tweet following his Masters’ victory.

Elkington and Bubba Watson had some confrontations on the golf course during the second round of the Zurich Classic in New Orleans four years ago. Watson was upset and believed Elkington was intentionally moving around as he was over shots, and they exchanged harsh words. As this was unfolding, reports circulated that Elkington said he was going to refuse to sign Watson’s scorecard after the round. A PGA Tour official was called to the scoring trailer, and Watson later apologized, saying the matter was resolved.

“Mr. Steve Elkington, I saw he wrote a good tweet about me, that was special,” Watson said Tuesday. “Before that happened, before all that went down in New Orleans, a few tournaments before, he saw me in a situation, and he was talking about young players. He said they don’t care about winning, they just care about money. He looked right at me, and he said, `In two years, you will be selling cars.’ I took that to heart, and it really upset me. In New Orleans, some stuff went down that upset me, and I apologized, and I apologized to him.”

Bubba Fever II – Actor Sean Hayes, country singer Shooter Jennings.

These guys are scheduled to appear with Watson Tuesday night on CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman.”

Good luck, fellows.

Watson isn’t just entertaining between the ropes of a golf course. He can be a hoot sitting in front of a camera. He’s an American original whose mind just works differently. 

Hayes is a veteran comedic actor, winner of an Emmy for his role on the NBC sitcom “Will & Grace.” He will play Larry in the new movie release of “The Three Stooges.” That’s perfect, because you could see Watson relishing the role himself. Jennings is a country singer, the son of Waylon Jennings. He has a new CD out titled “Family Man” and a new single titled “The Deed and the Dollar.” That’s also perfect for a night with Watson on the show.

Pink Fever – Paula Creamer

Winning the Masters with his pink Ping G20 driver, Watson trumps Creamer as the best pink-loving player in the game.

Ping, by the way, just announced it will sell 5,000 Ping G20 pink drivers to the public for the first time. The drivers will become available June 1 in golf shops with a portion of the sales going to the “Bubba Long in Pink” charity campaign. Ping already donates $300 to the cause for every drive Watson hits that is longer than 300 yards. Ping reports it has already donated $61,600 to the cause, which benefits Phoenix area charities.

Blackwater River Fever – Bagdad, Fla.

Watson’s little hometown of Bagdad is situated in the Blackwater River region of the Florida panhandle.

There’s a post office, and that’s about it” Watson once said before his father died. “No red lights. It’s a little piece of heaven, that’s what it is. My parents never had locks on their doors. My dad wants somebody to break into the house, but nobody has. My dad is like Tiger’s dad. He’s a special forces Green Beret, so he doesn't have locks on the doors. He wants somebody to come in. We never had locks on our doors, so I’ve never been afraid of anything.”

Bagdad is famous now, home to a major champion.

Watson is now the leader of a special triumvirate from the Blackwater River region. Boo Weekley, Heath Slocum and Watson all attended Milton High School. While Slocum and Watson were teammates on the golf team, Watson came along five years later. Slocum said when he first saw Bubba play at 10 years old, he thought the kid could help their golf team right then.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.